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Takeaway Tuesday #TNF Edition: Awuzie Killed It, Running Game Is Back

Mauricio Rodriguez

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For the second consecutive week, the Dallas Cowboys played football on Thursday, meaning that we get to have a special edition of Takeaway Tuesday, on Saturday. Also, for the first time in four weeks, we've got victory takeaways. How 'bout them Cowboys!

The Washington Redskins are slowly forgetting how it feels to beat the Cowboys, after they were defeated last Thursday with a 38-14 scoreboard. Just when all Cowboys fans were throwing in the towel, Garrett's team gave us a tiny bit of hope.

Obviously, the road ahead is not easy. However, this Cowboys team showed us a few things that are pretty promising. Here are this week's takeaways!

Chidobe Awuzie Will Be Good

Is Chidobe Awuzie Already The Cowboys Best CB?Finally, we got to see Chidobe Awuzie play football. After Anthony Brown was demoted, Awuzie got to start at left cornerback and he did a remarkable job versus the Redskins. We all wanted to see good things out of the second-round pick who's been dealing with a hamstring injury all year.

Well, we got something. Awuzie was amazing and he proved that he should remain the starter going forward.

Awuzie got to play in more than 88% of the defensive snaps, per Pro Football Reference. Although his stats aren't off the charts, his coverage was amazing and we should give him a lot of credit for what seemed like an improvement in the secondary.

I like the idea of a Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie CB duo for the future, and I bet receivers won't be happy to know they'll be facing these two guys in years to come.

Cowboys' Running Game Is Back 

A big reason why the Cowboys were losing games, is the absence of Ezekiel Elliott. Truth be told, it really was starting to feel like we had overrated the back-up RB committee that Dallas has.

DMC was ultimately cut, and between Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, things weren't going as planned. But for the first time without Zeke, the Cowboys were able to put together a solid running game.

Cowboys en Español: Dallas Se Mantiene Con Vida, ¿Qué Cambió? 2

Since the suspension began, I've been one of those guys who wants Rod Smith to get more and more carries. However, right now, Morris complicated things for Jaylon's brother. I still wish Smith gets more carries and a chance to shine as Zeke's future back-up, but Morris made his case this Thursday and there's no reason to expect a change at RB anytime soon.

Naturally, the offensive line deserves a lot of credit for taking it to another level and dominating Washington's front seven play after play. This might've been La'el Collins and Tyron Smith's best games of the season.

Kavon Frazier Could Become a Constant Contributor

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Dallas Cowboys S Kavon Frazier Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kavon Frazier has been outstanding on special teams all season long, and his name has stood out a couple of times. But last Thursday, Frazier shined on defense as well. He was only on the field for 21 defensive snaps, but he clearly made a difference more than a few times.

This coaching staff probably saw the same thing we did, and that's Frazier balling out.

I wonder if the Cowboys will be willing to give him a chance during future games to prove himself. What if he actually does a good job at safety and he gives a player like Byron Jones the opportunity to play at CB and improve the secondary?

At the very least, Frazier will continue to be one of the team's most valuable players on special teams.

Anthony Hitchens Is a Very Good LB

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Cowboys' defense has clearly suffered every game missed by Sean Lee. However, Anthony Hitchens himself has become into another great football player for the Dallas Cowboys.

Yeah, Lee is out, but without Hitchens I can guarantee to you, that it could've been worse. Hitchens has done a nice job holding this defense together and I expect him to continue doing do.

This is the last year on Hitchens' contract and I'd be astonished if the front office doesn't re-sing him in the offseason. Dallas could have a very special group of guys with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Anthony Hitchens and possibly, a LB taken in the first rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Cowboys Got The Confidence Boost They Needed

The Cowboys' road to the playoffs is more than tough. They put themselves in a position where it isn't only up to them, but some other teams have to lose to keep their hopes alive. However, perspective changes when you stop getting blown out every game.

Dak Prescott and company have a unique chance to take advantage of the confidence boost they got in this week's game. Next time they take the field, they'll be taking on a Giants team that will probably be playing a QB not named "Eli Manning."

The Cowboys do have tough games versus the Raiders, the Seahawks and possibly the Eagles (even though they might be playing with back-ups only when the time comes around in week 17).

But, for now, let's focus on getting four wins in four weeks. Hope dies last... let's go Cowboys!

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday #TNF Edition: Awuzie Killed It, Running Game Is Back" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys are halfway through their 2018 preseason. Given the injuries they're left to deal with to Zack Martin, Xavier Woods, and Jameill Showers, the Cowboys were happy to see their first home game of the season come to an end when it did. Despite the 21-13 loss, the Cowboys starters made another strong impression before exiting for backups that once again failed to hold the lead.

This is a game I'm looking forward to getting another look at on film, but for now here are a few thoughts the first time through.

  • Rookie Connor Williams is still a work in progress at guard, as he'll get himself in trouble trying to catch rushers too often. 

This "catch blocking" is not uncommon for young offensive linemen, particularly ones learning a new position in preparation to start on the league's best front. On the Cowboys second drive of the game, Williams was caught back in his stance dealing with a twist from the Bengals with Left Tackle Tyron Smith.

The result of the play was an incomplete pass on third down from Dak Prescott. With Williams' footwork being as consistent as it has, I wouldn't worry too much about his upper body technique and strength improving greatly before week one of the regular season. Perhaps most importantly, Williams has looked smooth playing in space, something the Cowboys are prepared to ask the second round pick to do plenty of.

  • With Randy Gregory back in the lineup, the Cowboys potential to have a great rotation of defensive ends was on full display. 

The play that stands out is a tackle for loss by Safety Jeff Heath. On the play, Defensive End Tyrone Crawford did a great job setting the edge against the run, allowing Heath to come down and make the aggressive play.

Crawford created penetration against a tight end, staying disciplined in his rush lane from the right defensive end position to force the run outside.

On the Bengals' offensive series prior to this play by Heath, the Cowboys forced a punt following a missed Andy Dalton throw to A.J. Green. Despite not being tight in coverage on third down, Randy Gregory looked sharp coming off the edge to rush Dalton slightly.

With Taco Charlton also looking strong against the run, and rookie Dorance Armstrong continuing to develop as a weak side pass rusher, the possible match ups the Cowboys can create up front are seemingly endless.

Almost all of them will include last year's sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence, who was also disruptive on nearly every snap in this game.

  • Give credit to Joe Looney for handling the reps he did at center, but the backup interior lineman left a lot to be desired from this position. 

It should come as no surprise that Looney is a better guard than center, or that the Cowboys would look significantly worse at center without Travis Frederick in the lineup.

Overall, this was a disappointing game for the Cowboys thin offensive line depth. Paul Alexander's unit was unable to give quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Mike White a fair chance to settle into the game.

Looney's contact balance was suspect throughout the evening. Not the most powerful player, it's important for Looney to play with leverage and balance, which he did inconsistently last night.

Awaiting news on Zack Martin's first quarter injury still, the Cowboys should have already been concerned about their backups at tackle, with the guard position becoming a late concern now.

  • This is becoming the standard for Jaylon Smith, but I did not see one Bengals blocker effectively slow him down.

The power that Smith is playing with is an outstanding sign for continued success. Not only is Smith physically up for the challenge of starting at MIKE for the Cowboys, but he's physically dominating opponents with strength, speed, and range.

Whether he was running laterally and avoiding blocks with great awareness, or attacking the pocket, Smith's path to the ball was rarely impeded against the Bengals.

No matter who the Cowboys lined up in their front seven, the group did a great job setting a strong tone. Antwaun Woods was once again impressive at the one technique position inside, and Brian Price made a flash play from this position late in the game as well.

Thanks to Smith's gap shooting ability, and the Cowboys willingness so far this preseason to be creative with the Notre Dame product, the team's defensive tackles don't have to be asked to do too much. Holding their spots while drawing blockers will be more than enough to free Smith and the rest of the Cowboys linebackers to make plays.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CBs Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

  • Chidobe Awuzie's interception in the second quarter is a reminder of just how high the second-year cornerback's potential is. 

Sure, Awuzie's length put him at an advantage to take a leap into year two once Kris Richard arrived as the Cowboys passing game coordinator.

Being productive on the ball, as Awuzie was here, is a testament to just how athletic he is as a boundary cornerback though. A beat late recognizing the ball coming his way, Awuzie remained in perfect position to get a hand on this pass.

Doing so with an explosive leap off the ground and full extension, Awuzie snagged the ball with one hand before bringing it into his body to secure another turnover for the Cowboys first team defense.

The Cowboys cornerback depth proved suspect beyond Awuzie and Byron Jones in this game, but being as good as they already are on the boundary is a huge step in the right direction for Rod Marinelli's defense.

I also thought that UDFA Tyree Robinson did a great job answering the bell at safety, showing up a number of times in run support with the Cowboys in desperate need of depth at his position.

It's in the slot, where Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis continue to feel the pressure of competition, that the Cowboys are struggling to find the right starter - even trying Lewis on the outside well into the fourth quarter of this game.

 ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys will remain in their home state to conclude their training camp and preseason. Needing to see more out of their second and third team, practices will resume at The Star on Monday before another preseason game at AT&T Stadium.

This time, it will be the Arizona Cardinals coming in for a Sunday Night Football tune up. The Cowboys starters could very well see even more playing time than they have through the first two weeks, giving them a better chance of sustaining success and coming away with a preseason win.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

CIN 21, DAL 13: Dak Prescott Continues Strong Preseason in Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Bengals

The games may not count yet, but Dak Prescott looks ready for the 2018 season. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback continued his strong preseason play in the team's 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Prescott played three series, going 10/15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He got the offense out of trouble a few times with his feet, avoiding sacks and ultimately getting the scoring pass off on a redzone scramble.

Dak's strong play has coincided with shutdown performances from the starting defense. The Cowboys' first-team defenders have yet to allow a score in two preseason games. Tonight, the Bengals were forced into four punts and two turnovers on their first-half possessions.

Overall, the Cowboys are a combined 24-7 in the first halves of their first two preseason contests.

The second half has been the problem, and for two weeks now Dallas' reserves have squandered halftime leads and given up losses. Thankfully, most of the responsible players will not be on the final 53-man roster.

Other Notes

  • There were several concerning injuries for the Cowboys tonight. None was scarier than when All-Pro guard Zack Martin went out with a knee injury, but it does not appear to have been serious. Starting defensive backs Byron Jones and Xavier Woods also got banged up; Byron returned to the game but Woods did not. Defensive lineman Datone Jones also left with a knee injury.
  • Even more concerning was the play of the second-team offensive line. Chaz Green was typically awful, but we also saw swing tackle Cam Fleming struggling and just an overall lack of protection for the backups quarterbacks. Green got benched in the second half and may have finally played his way off the team.
  • Credit to Terrance Williams for getting open in the endzone to give Dak Prescott a receiver for the touchdown throw. Even with his warts, Williams' two years of experience playing with Dak can't be ignored in deciding who makes the team.
  • Tight end Blake Jarwin continues to run with the starters on offense and may have quietly taken the job away from Geoff Swaim.
  • Darius Jackson took advantage of some extra playing time tonight after Bo Scarbrough left with a hip injury. He broke off a few nice runs to amass 42 yards on just six carries, plus had four receptions.
  • We finally get to see Dan Bailey kick a field goal again, and it was an easy 35-yarder with no issues.
  • Shout out to Chidobe Awuzie for one of the pretty interceptions that a Cowboys DB has made in some time. Awuzie had to bend like Beckham (Odell, that is) to get a hand on the ball, then tipped it to himself for the pick.
  • Preseason fun continues for the Cowboys next Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals on NBC's Sunday Night Football.



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Game Notes

#DALvsCIN: Can WR Lance Lenoir Continue To Impress?

Kevin Brady

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Lance Lenoir

Entering training camp projecting who would make the final roster from the Dallas Cowboys wide receiving room was a crapshoot. The combination of misfits from other teams, unproven young guys, and a couple of Cowboys veterans makes this position group the most questioned across the entire roster.

But while Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup were stealing headlines, Lance Lenoir was making a name for himself among the Cowboys faithful.

After serving on the practice squad for the Cowboys a year ago, Lenoir seems to have entered 2018 with one goal in mind: to make the official game-day roster. And even if he falls short of this goal, it won't be due to any fault of his own.

Day in and day out Lance Lenoir has been a consistent wide out, catching nearly everything thrown his way and running some of the crisper routes on the team. Under new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, Lenoir has become a technical route runner and dangerous receiving threat.

Maybe most importantly for his future with the team, Lenoir has developed an obvious chemistry with starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has continued to compliment Lenoir throughout training camp, and you know that the Cowboys front office is well aware of Prescott's trust in Lenoir on the field.

During the preseason opener against the 49ers, Lance Lenoir caught his first touchdown of the season, dazzling with his toe-tap ability. If he is going to steal a roster spot away from one of the more seasoned wide outs, however, he will have to remain that consistent target.

This Saturday, Lenoir gets another shot to prove why he's not only deserving of a roster spot, but of a starting spot. Sure, it might be a bit of a stretch, but if he continues to play like he has during camp and preseason, Lenoir could find himself working with the 1's more frequently.

Look out for Lance Lenoir against the Bengals this week, as he makes it harder and harder for the Cowboys to cut him by the second.



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